Advanced Yoga Sequences

Want to Fly? 7 Must-Try AcroYoga Poses

Why try Acro? In short: Fun. This hybrid style mixes acrobatics and healing arts like Thai massage with a practice that helps connect you with others.

acro-high-flying-whale

Why try Acro? Short answer: Fun. This hybrid style combining acrobatics and healing arts like Thai massage with yoga can help you take the next step in your practice by connecting you with others while boosting strength, body awareness, and playfulness.

It will take you out of your comfort zone and require that you exercise your trust muscle,” says Deven Sisler, lead AcroYoga teacher on Wanderlust’s 2015 tour. “Breathe deeply—you will be flying before you know it!”

Round up a couple of friends and try this sequence Sisler created for YJ. These poses require a base (the person closest to the ground, who supports the flyer), a flyer, and a spotter.

WARM UP Start with three rounds of Sun Salutations to connect to your center and breath before you start working in a partnership. Then do hold Plank Pose for 30 seconds to fire up your core. Practice one backbend of your choice to further warm up your spine.

SAFETY During the sequence, if a pose feels painful or the flyer is on the verge of falling, the base, flyer, or spotter can say “down.” Then everyone brings the flyer safely to the ground. After each pose, rotate roles so that everyone can try basing, flying, and spotting.

Want to see how it works? Watch our Acro 101 Video

Partner Warm-Up: Reverse Hand-to-Hand Push-Ups

acro-reverse-Hand-to-Hand-Push-Up-#1

This hand connection is an important partner mudra (hand gesture) for your AcroYoga practice, whether you are a beginner or advanced.

REVERSE HAND-TO-HAND GRIP Imagine both the base and flyer have mittens on, fingers together with thumbs out. The flyer’s fingers point toward the base’s face. The base rotates hands at a 45-degree angle out to the side as the flyer clasps the base’s hands. The base and flyer keep arms straight for a full breath cycle, so there’s one long line from the base’s shoulder through the connected hands to the flyer’s shoulder.

PUSH-UPS The base then bends arms as far as comfortable out to the sides 5 times and the flyer keeps arms straight. Both the base and flyer inhale on the way down and exhale on the press up, keeping the abdominal muscles engaged.

Also see AcroYoga 101: A Classic Sequence for Beginners

Front Plank

This flying pose is just like Plank Pose on the ground, but with more support. Since there are four points of contact, the base and flyer can explore how the balance works.

SET UP
Base:
 Lie on your back with your heels over your hips. 
Flyer:
Stand facing your base with your toes almost touching their glutes.
Base: Bring your feet to the hipbones of the flyer, bending your knees a little to connect in a reverse hand-to-hand grip.

FLY
Flyer:Lean forward into your base’s feet, keeping your body in one line from shoulders to heels.
Base: With straight arms, receive the weight of your flyer in your feet, then straighten your legs and stack your heels directly over your hips, keeping your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight.
Spotter: Stand next to the flyer’s hips. Make sure the base and flyer are safe, and help the base keep their heels directly over their hips for maximum balance.
Flyer: Engage your core and allow the base to lift you off the ground.
Base: Keep your arms straight, shoulder blades grounded into your mat, and your hands directly over your shoulders.
Flyer: Push into the hand connection and lift your toes like in Locust Pose. Stay here for 5–10 breath cycles.

COME DOWN
Base:
Bend your legs to bring the flyer’s feet to the floor.

See also Have More Fun: AcroYoga + More Trends

Chair Pose (Utkatasana) on Shins

The base will build confidence and leg strength by keeping the shins parallel to the floor. The flyer learns to trust the uneven support under their feet.

SET UP
Base: Stack your knees over your hips, keeping your legs about hip-width apart.

FLY
Flyer: Place the ball of your big toe at the top of base’s shin/bottom of kneecap, then take a reverse hand-to-hand grip. Pressing into strong straight arms, place your second foot on the base’s other shin and stand up.
Base: You can stabilize your legs by holding your own outer thighs once the flyer is standing. Your flyer may ask you to experiment with the angle of the shins to the floor for more or less support.
Spotter: Stand at the back body of the flyer in Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I), ready to help the flyer down by holding their hips if they lose balance. This pose can go down quickly, so watch closely!
Flyer: Breathe in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) for a moment. Then sit back into Chair Pose as you reach your arms forward and up. Stay up for 3 breath cycles.

COME DOWN
Flyer: Slowly shift back into Tadasana, then clasp the base’s hands and step off with control.

See also 6 Yoga-Inspired Barre Poses to Try

High-Flying Whale

acro-high-flying-whale

This is a gentle yet deep backbend for the flyer’s upper thoracic spine. It demands a little more balancing skill from the base. The spotter can help communicate needs between the base and the flyer.

SET UP
Flyer: Start by standing at the base’s head with your heels touching their shoulders.
Base: Reach your toes toward the flyer’s waist. As the flyer leans back, your heels should end up around their shoulder blades. Adjust accordingly.
Flyer: Reach back for the base’s ankles as you lean back and rest your back on their feet.

FLY
Base: When you have the flyer’s weight on your feet, press your feet away from you and straighten your legs. As the flyer becomes lighter because more weight is in your legs than theirs, extend your arms straight. Give a little toe point for a deeper backbend.
Flyer: Stay and breathe deeply for 10 breath cycles. Tell the base if you want a deeper or more shallow backbend.

COME DOWN
Spotter:
Hover your hands around the hips of the flyer and bring their feet to the ground if the pose gets wobbly. Help the flyer back to standing.
Base: Bring flyer’s feet down to the ground as close to your shoulders as possible, while gently pushing into the flyer’s upper back with your toes.

Also see Free Your Yoga with Dance 

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

This deeper backbend requires a little more trust. Both the base and the flyer need to communicate that their knees feel good during this transition from High-Flying Whale to Camel. If they don’t, come down and start again.

FLY
Base: Start with the flyer in High-Flying Whale. Invite the flyer to steadily bend one leg at a time. Decide which leg they will bend first by giving a gentle squeeze (asking for left or right can be confusing when you are flying).
Flyer: Move slowly, bend one leg at a time, then press the arch of your foot on the kneecap of the base to stabilize the pose. Try one leg bent, then the other for 3 breaths. If that feels good, try both legs bent at the same time for 3 more breath cycles.
Base: Place your hand at the top of the flyer’s shin, if either of you want extra support.
Spotter: Stand close by in Warrior I to support.

COME DOWN
Flyer: Return to High-Flying Whale, coming down the same way.
Base: Bring flyer’s feet down to the ground as close to your shoulders as possible, while gently pushing into the flyer’s upper back with your toes.
Spotter:Hover your hands around the hips of the flyer and bring their feet to the ground if the pose gets wobbly. Help the flyer back to standing.

Also see AcroYoga Secrets to Flying

Back Bird

In this pose, flyers can find a deeper backbend not limited by shoulder or hip flexibility. Once you are comfortable with the balance, Back Bird is both relaxing and invigorating for the flyer.

SET UP
Base:
Lift your heels over your hips.
Flyer:
 Stand with your heels almost touching the base’s glutes. Reach your arms behind you and take hold of the base’s ankles.
Base: Place your heels in the middle of the flyer’s glutes, your toes reaching up toward their waistline. Bend your knees as little as possible to receive the flyer. Keep your arms straight as you receive their weight.

FLY
Flyer: Lean back to connect your shoulder blades to the base’s hands.
Base: Elongate your legs as the base connects their shoulders to your hands while keeping your arms strong.
Flyer: As the base lifts you, draw one foot to touch your opposite knee and extend your arms toward the base’s legs. Take 1–3 breath cycles here and then slowly switch legs. Ask for a less intense backbend if desired.
Spotter: Check that everyone is safe by cuing the base to keep their heels stacked over their hips. Stand in Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana) with hands facing up like you are holding a platter—one hand under the lower back of the flyer and your other hand under their upper leg.

COME DOWN
Flyer: Clasp the base’s ankles.
Base: Bend knees to bring the flyer’s feet back to the floor.

Also see 5 Barre Moves Every Yogi Should Try

Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

Many yogis find the Acro variation of Boat easier than the traditional pose on the ground because the base’s feet can help the flyer lift higher.

FLY
Flyer:
Start in Back Bird. Curl up by engaging the abdominal muscles and drawing the inner legs together. Focus on slowly lifting into the Boat variation that you are most comfortable with and breathe for 7 breath cycles.
Spotter: Check that everyone is safe by cuing the base to keep their heels stacked over their hips. Stand in Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana) with hands facing up like you are holding a platter—one hand under the lower back of the flyer and your other hand under their upper leg.

COME DOWN
Flyer: Return to Back Bird. Clasp the base’s ankles.
Base: Bend knees to bring the flyer’s feet back to the floor.

NEXT Check in with your partners. Ask each other: What worked really well? Is there anything you can do next time that would be more supportive, in word or in action? Then try it again!

Want more inspiration? Watch these advanced moves in our AcroYoga Freeplay Video